The career of Pericles, the leading Athenian politician and general from c. 450 to 429 B.C., is a prism through which to view the "Golden Age" of Greece, a brief but remarkable era when Athens experienced a cultural flowering of extraordinary power and importance for Western culture.
In the generation that followed Pericles' appearance on the public stage shortly after the Persian wars, Athens rapidly transformed the alliance of Greek states - an alliance first created as a defense against the Persians - into a true Aegean empire, dominated by the Athenians and their mighty navy. But this dramatic increase in military power, cultural influence, and prestige was also accompanied by something unique: the growth of full participatory democracy. But in examining the lives of Athenian men and women, one has to ask what freedom and autonomy really meant to a society that relied on slaves and was ruthless in its treatment of its subjects.
These 24 stimulating lectures present a well-rounded portrait of almost every aspect of Athenian life during the Golden Age, including. the different ways Athens and Sparta raised their children; the fate of Athenian girls as mothers and managers of the household; young Pericles' role in bringing Aeschylus's masterpiece, The Persians; why the Spartans rejected the aid of Athens in putting down a slave revolt; and Thucydides' terrifying description of the plague's physical and social impact on Athens - including the death of Pericles - and its possible role in the ultimate defeat of Athens by Sparta.
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©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses
This was an excellent introduction to Ancient Athens, with lectures covering pretty much every aspect of society. As the name suggests, it focuses roughly on the period around Pericles' lifetime (495-429BC), between the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars (although it goes a bit before and after for context), during which Athens was a world power .
It IS worth having a map of Ancient Greece handy while listening, along possibly with one of Athens itself - there are plenty downloadable on the internet.
The narrator is a very clear speaker, perfectly intelligible at 1.25x speed (which makes the lectures around 24 minutes long). The lectures are pretty easy to understand and often are a good introduction if you want to study an area in more depth. The course overall gives a very good overview, especially with getting into the mindset of WHY people thought particular things, without going into excessive confusing detail. While you can easily spot connections between the lectures, they're mostly self contained enough that you COULD pick and choose which to listen to without getting horribly confused (though it's a good enough course you probably won't feel the need to).
Lectures (if you go to the course page on The Great Courses website there's individual lecture summaries):
1) The Agora (essentially overview of the city center)
2) The Persian Wars (which were the precursor to:)
3) The Athenian Empire (how, why, etc)
4) The Career of Pericles
5) Aspasia (Pericles' mistress - includes legalities + role of women)
6) Parthenon and Acropolis (this is a mixture of religion and architecture)
7) Panathenaea - The Festivals of Athens
8) Paideia - Education in Ancient Athens
9) Marriage in Pericles' Athens
10) Family and Property
11) Coins Trade and Business
12) Death and Burial
13) Aeschylus and Early Tragedy (first of 4 lectures on greek theatre)
14) Sophoclean Tragedy (second major Athenian tragedian)
15) Euripides (third major tragedian)
16) Comedy in the Age of Aristophanes (
17) Athenian Courts and Justice
18) Democracy and Government
19) The Age of Moderation
20) Freedom, Equality and the Rights of Man
21) Athens after Pericles
22) Socrates and the Sophists (this and the next are overview of philosophy)
24) An Elegy to Athens
"Unflinching look at the Golden Age of Athens"
Anyone can tell you that Western civilization owes much to the ancient Greeks. But few people can give you the insight of this lecturer. He gives an in depth tour of ancient Greece in the 400s BCE and he does not attempt to hide the ugly aspects of a society that used slave labor. He uses the Persian and Peloponnesian wars as bookends for his examination.
He gives a detailed portrait of life for generals and politicians as well as everyday citizens and foreigners. In doing so he covers the historical and cultural events that shaped the city.
Finally, he discusses how the ancient Greeks were similar and different from us in their conception of ideas of freedom and democracy.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for an in depth look at the ancient Greeks, but you do need some familiarity with the material to get the most out of it. I would not recommend it as a first book about the ancient world.
This was a terrific exploration of Periclean Athens, focusing on topics ranging from family dynamics to theatre to philosophy to legal process.
Energy, enthusiasm, and wit.
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